Looking for more in Writing and Authors or About New Writers Awards?

New Writer 2021: Deborah Chu


Deborah Chu headshot

Born in Taipei and raised in Vancouver, Deborah moved to Scotland in 2015 to complete an MSc in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a Content Editor at The List and has written for them since 2018, specialising in theatre and green arts initiatives. In 2019, she received the Fringe Society’s Allen Wright Award for excellence in arts criticism, receiving an Honourable Mention in 2018.

Her current area of focus is on short stories, with a particular interest in the role of form and structure in storytelling. As someone who learned English as a second language, she’s also invested in exploring how language both shapes and places limits upon our understanding of the world, and the opportunities that arise when words fail us.

You can find her on Twitter(this will open in a new window) and Instagram(this will open in a new window).

Writing sample

Excerpt fromsome unsolicited advice for surviving the acqua alta


There are many thoughts that will run through your mind when you finally abandon your father for dry land. As his figure shrinks in the distance, your hands do not tremble on the oar. You do not have second thoughts. Sail past those drowned loggias without a backwards glance. Focus instead on what the damp did to your hair, what it did to Rafael. Do not look back. Think about all the glorious meals left to you in your lifetime, and what this would have meant to your mother. Whatever it takes. Do not look back.


There was once a family that lived someplace with roads and clinics and shops selling all the hothouse tomatoes you could ever want. The father taught art history; the mother wrote for a travel magazine. Here is a photo of her on the Kazakh steppe, being spat on by a camel. She loathed gauzy, sentimental descriptions of unpeopled landscapes, but she ​loved camels.


Left Bank, 1968: this was also the mother and father, once. There they were, passing fugitive messages beneath their desks. There they were, walking into the public square with their teachers. ​Freedom is what we do with what is done to us,​ says Sartre​. ​They felt, for the first time, as though they were living the words of the books they read. The free and living word.

Sous les pavés, la plage!​ Under the paving stones, the beach.

The police advanced, shoulder-to-shoulder, slamming their batons against their shields. They are their fathers, the fathers of the republic, and the Father is everywhere – he is dressed in riot gear, he is in tweed, he is your boss, he is scrutinizing your haircut, he is the government, he died for your sins, and ​this is how you repay him​?

Deborah says:

'Even weeks after the fact, I don’t think the enormity of the news has quite sunk in yet! Thank you so much to the Scottish Book Trust for this incredible honour, and the support and guidance this award will provide. I cannot wait to get started.'